* Recent selloff in EM FX supports demand for safe havens
* Dollar/yen hits lowest level since early December
* Stops helped fuel dollar/yen drop - trader
By Hideyuki Sano and Masayuki Kitano
TOKYO/SINGAPORE, Jan 27 The dollar slipped to a
seven-week low against the yen on Monday as a sell-off in
emerging market currencies late last week prompted investors to
seek shelter in the safe-haven Japanese currency.
The dollar fell as low as 101.77 yen, its lowest
level since early December, and last stood at 102.36 yen, steady
from late U.S. levels last week. It has fallen about 2.1 percent
in the past three sessions.
"It was all driven by stop-loss selling in thin, pre-Tokyo
markets," said Jeffrey Halley, FX trader for Saxo Capital
Markets in Singapore, referring to the dollar's earlier drop to
a seven-week low against the yen.
"The market is definitely focusing on EM, particularly the
weak EM countries," he said.
Halley said, however, that U.S. names and Japanese importers
have been good buyers of the dollar on dips, adding that the
dollar seemed likely to be supported at levels near 101.80 yen
Emerging market (EM) currencies from Turkey to Argentine
were dumped last week, making investors nervous that the
shakeout in markets could lead to a full-blown financial crisis.
Some of the selling in emerging markets also had its roots
in domestic factors. In Turkey, political concerns had a
negative impact on markets, while Argentina abandoned support of
its peso on the open market last week, sending the currency
skidding to its biggest drop since the 2002 financial crisis.
However, an underlying concern was that tighter U.S.
monetary policy could encourage a shift of funds back to the
United States from emerging markets that had enjoyed a flood of
cheap money from the Federal Reserve's money printing programme,
known as quantitative easing.
In addition, tightening credit conditions in China as the
government seeks to curb growth in high-risk lending heightened
fears about a possible slowdown in Asia's economic powerhouse.
"Market positioning also likely played a role in the
volatile price action. For some currencies, positioning has
become slightly stretched, particularly in the yen," Barclays
analysts said in a note to clients.
"In a context of market liquidation of the magnitude we
witnessed on Friday, it is logical that some of the previously
strong performing trades were unwound," they said.
Indeed, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading
Commission showed speculators' net selling in yen futures traded
in Chicago remained high. As of last Tuesday, net yen short
positions stood at 114,961 contracts, near a 6-1/2-year high of
143,822 contracts set late December.
Investors had sold the yen heavily on the notion that a
cocktail of a solid global recovery and Japan's hyper-easy
monetary policy will spur yen-carry trades - borrowing the yen
and converting it to higher-yielding currencies, many of them in
Mitul Kotecha, the Hong Kong-based head of global foreign
exchange strategy for Credit Agricole, said risk aversion will
probably remain fairly elevated in the very near term, such as
during the course of this week.
That points to the potential for more downside pressure on
dollar/yen for now, especially since U.S. Treasury yields have
also come down, he said. The 10-year Treasury yield touched a
near two-month low of 2.706 percent on Friday.
"You need to see an improvement in risk sentiment, but also
I think you need to see a jump in U.S. yields for there to be a
big (upside) move in dollar/yen," Kotecha added.
The Swiss franc, another safe-haven currency, hovered near a
one-month high against the euro, which last traded at 1.2244
franc, not far from Friday's low of 1.2227.
The Swiss franc stood near 0.8947 per dollar, having
hit a one-month high of 0.8904 on Friday.
The euro inched up 0.1 percent versus the dollar to $1.3686
, having risen to a three-week high of $1.3740 on Friday.